Bike rental provider expands into Somerville
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 17:09
New Balance Hubway, the Metro-Boston bicycle rental provider, this summer began its expansion into Somerville, following a phased launch that began July 28 of last year.
Hubway will eventually host around 12 bike stations in Somerville, Sarah Spicer, senior transportation planner in the Somerville Mayor’s Office of Strategic Planning and Community Development, told the Daily in an email.
Bike share stations in Somerville are now located near City Hall, Union Square, Conway Park and Beacon Street.
These four stations will have widespread implications for Somerville commuters, according to Metropolitan Area Planning Council Transport Coordinator Jessica Robertson.
“Hubway is a system designed for short, point-to-point trips — there are stations all over the region throughout Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline,” Robertson said.
The service runs for three seasons, shutting down during the winter, Spicer said. Users can choose between a one-day pass, a three-day pass or an annual membership.
“The idea is to give an incentive to check the bike back in — so rather than taking a bike out to go to class and walking back out and taking the same bike, the idea is to check it in a station and pick up a new bike after class. That’s why the usage fees are structured that way,” Robertson said.
In an effort to connect riders in the greater Boston area, Hubway in 2012 signed an agreement with Somerville, Cambridge and Brookline to form a regional system, Spicer said. The expansion will culminate in 111 stations containing 1,100 bicycles, she added.
“The idea is to give people a convenient, flexible option that can complement the T or provide a 24-hour option that is affordable,” Robertson said. “For example, in Cambridge and Somerville now you can easily ride between Central Square, Inman [Square] and Union Square, and before there was no good way to get there besides walking or taking [ground transportation].”
Robertson explained that Hubway’s goals align with Somerville’s healthy living and local business initiatives.
“It also fits in with Somerville’s efforts to make neighborhoods more livable and to draw people to local business districts,” Robertson said.
Robertson noted that although the service has attracted a variety of users, the popularity of Hubway is low among students.
“We haven’t seen as much membership among students as expected,” she said. “We think part of that might be a price point problem — if the annual membership is $85, that’s a little [much] up front for many students.”
She added that Hubway is working to combat this problem by developing a monthly package that would cater to students.
Alex Grant, a captain of Tufts’ cycling team, agreed that cost is an issue with students.
“It is kind of expensive if you haven’t rented before,” Grant, a senior, said. “I think it’s great for a tourist or for someone who’s visiting the city, but it might be kind of expensive for a student who wants to go grocery shopping every week.”
Few cases of vandalism or theft have been reported, Robertson said, citing durable bikes and successful safety operations.
“Our consultant, Alta Bike Share, maintains the bikes fastidiously,” Spicer said. “We haven’t had any serious challenges so far — the system and its users have shown a high level of safety and few operating issues.”
Some private companies, hospitals and universities sponsor their own Hubway stations, making Tufts a possible host.
“Tufts in particular would be a great location since Davis Square is a good mile or so away,” Robertson said. “I think that it could be a great opportunity. Several universities have partnered with Hubway and with the municipality that sponsors stations, Harvard and [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] most notably.”
Editor's Note: The original version of this article stated that there are three bike share stations in Somerville. In fact, there are four; the Beacon Street station was previously omitted. The current version of this article reflects this change.